Busting a move to Los Angeles seemed only natural for Houston-based interior designer Garrett Hunter and architect Michael Landrum. Although the two friends maintain independent practices, they share an office space and frequently collaborate on projects. The two are also partners in an ever-evolving, experimental gallery/showroom project that first came to life in Houston in 2016 named Tienda X. Two years later, Hunter and Landrum moved the gallery—which hosts a compelling mix of fine and decorative art spanning the contemporary and the antique—to a Mediterranean-style stone house in Austin. They dubbed the operation Villa X.
“One day, in the middle of the pandemic, we were driving from Houston to Austin, and I looked at Michael and said, ‘I don’t want to be here. I think it’s time to move.’ He agreed, and so we set our sights on Los Angeles, where we do a lot of our sourcing and love spending time. We also have a lot of great collaborators in L.A.,” Hunter explains, citing lighting guru Sean O’Connor and garden maestro Art Luna as two examples. “COVID threw everything up in the air. We both work a lot in L.A., and we always envisioned Tienda X as a fluid enterprise that would move around and, in the process of moving, re-create itself,” Landrum adds.
While they initially imagined setting up their gallery cum pied-à-terre in what Hunter describes as “a crusty Spanish-style house or a classic L.A. midcentury modern,” the two eventually alighted on a 1920s early Hollywood Regency home in the neighborhood of Whitley Heights. It was kismet. “As a kid, when I traveled to Los Angeles with my family, I would run around town with my Leica and my sketch pad to document houses. This place was one of the houses I would draw,” Hunter recalls. Adds Landrum, “This was the perfect spot to plant our flag. It feels like you’re walking into a great suite at the Chateau Marmont, so we’ve unofficially dubbed the house Chateau X.”
Fortunately, the home was in fine shape and ready to be filled with a kaleidoscopic array of furniture and art. “That was definitely one of the perks. We changed a few light fixtures and that was it. Then we shipped in two households worth of stuff from storage locations in Austin, Houston, Brooklyn, and L.A.,” Landrum reports. In characteristic fashion, Hunter and Landrum cast a wide net, importing a heady brew of idiosyncratic 20th-century designs, contemporary pieces by local California makers, select antiques, and artworks by boldface names and up-and-coming talents. The living room alone incorporates curtains of vintage Fortuny fabric, an Andre Arbus rug, a cocktail table by Philip and Kelvin LaVerne, a ceramic lamp by L.A.–based LGS Studio, Louis XV chairs, and a drawing by Georgia O’Keeffe.
“We’re interested in the beauty of the friction between disparate objects and concepts,” says Hunter, who is now residing almost ful-time in Los Angeles. Landrum adds, “It’s the same sensibility we apply to our design work. We reject the idea of a single, fixed mindset. Every project is different. Every project is an experiment in finding what works together, and what kind of dialogue we can create between architecture, interiors, landscape, and furniture.”